Taming the Easter Bunny

Easter is around the corner, and Easter candy has been in stores for several weeks, tempting even the most disciplined eater. I am often asked what a parent can do to reduce the sugary and fatty goodies that fill most Easter baskets.

This is a tough question. As a nutritionist I value health and try to follow a healthy eating routine daily. But there are times when a little indulgence is ok.

Here are a few suggestions that may help. (Remember to select age-appropriate treats in all cases due to choking hazards in young children. Rules on when the treats can be enjoyed can help reduce the sugar and fat eaten at one time. And if there are pets in the house, make sure that they are not able to sample the treats or the non-edible Easter grass.  I speak from experience with a Golden Retriever!)

For non-food treats, try the following:

  • Plan a family outing and include tickets to an event.  This could include a visit to the zoo, children’s museum, science center, or historical site.
  • Interested in an Easter egg hunt? Check the newspaper and internet for events in your area.
  • Pack the basket with small toys or stuffed animals. Coins work well, too.
  • Promote creativity with art and craft items, books, blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and bath accessories.

For food treats, consider these suggestions:

  • Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Research has shown that the chemicals in dark chocolate are better for the heart than other varieties. If chocolate eggs or bunnies are too much for your preference, try chocolate-covered versions of pretzels, nuts, or dried fruit.
  • Look for candy with less fat per serving, such as Three Musketeers bars and Peppermint Patties. The mini size is just right for a basket.
  • Remember fruit leather? This can be purchased or made at home. Recipes are numerous, and many fruits can be used.
  • Make your own Rice Krispie treats. For added fun, use cookie cutters to make holiday shapes and then wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Prepare trail mix and put the mix in decorated Easter bags.
  • Make homemade cookies in Easter shapes. When making cookies at home, one can reduce the sugar by at least a third and still have a tasty product.
  • If one must have Peeps and jelly beans, add just a few. The sugar content is high in these items. Or, substitute dried fruit.  Dates, dried cherries, apricots, and blueberries are fun and also add fiber. Pack these in plastic eggs.
  • And to help keep dental bills down, how about adding a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste to encourage good dental habits?

Also, to make the hunt for goodies last longer, wrap and hide the different treats. Then have the kids look for these items and place in an empty basket. The fun lasts longer than when presenting a prepared basket. Have the treats color-coded so each child searches for a different color.

Be sure to include fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods at meals throughout the day. If weather permits, engage in some outdoor activity to use up the extra treat calories.

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Foods that offer nutrients for healthy skin

According to InStyle, women spend $15,000 on cosmetics during their lives. In addition, billions are also paid for cosmetic surgery.  People might be overlooking an easier and less expensive way to achieve a youthful glow.

Citrus fruits, the group that includes oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, contain the essential nutrient vitamin C. This vitamin is an antioxidant, a substance that helps prevent and repair damage to cells. This damage can come from medications, sun exposure, and the environment.

Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein that gives skin tissue firmness and strength. Firmer skin means fewer wrinkles. Healthy skin cells also mean improved moisture retention to combat dryness.

Other sources of vitamin C include most berries, kiwi, papaya, green and red peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and melons.

Tomatoes help the skin in two ways, first as a source of vitamin C and second as a source of the antioxidant lycopene. This nutrient also gives tomatoes their red color. For those readers that enjoy fresh tomatoes, consider that these vegetables offer the most lycopene when eaten cooked. And being fat-soluble, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when eaten with a source fat, such as heart-healthy olive oil.

Tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup all contribute this important nutrient. Other sources of lycopene include watermelon and ruby-red grapefruit.

Another pigment that offers benefits for skin is beta-carotene, found in orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, pumpkin and other winter squashes all offer this nutrient. Beta carotene is used by the body to make vitamin A, and is also another antioxidant. Note a trend here?

Although not orange in color, dark green veggies contribute beta-carotene to the diet, too. Spinach, kale, turnip greens, peas, green peppers, and broccoli are rich sources of this nutrient.

Last on the list are fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. These provide the essential fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids. Most know that omega-3’s protect the heart, but these fats also promote healthy skin by keeping moisture in the cells and helping to form collagen. Although animal sources of omega-3’s have been shown to be stronger when compared to plant sources, the body can convert some the plant omega-3’s to a form used by the body. Plant sources include walnuts, soy, flax, and chia seeds.

Next time you shop for that perfect shade of eye shadow, make sure to pick up some fresh produce and salmon, too.